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  • Alaska

    The three of us headed out Thursday night, January 16 to tackle the Bomber Traverse. I decided to give my new Crispi Svartisen BC/Madshus Glittertind rig a good hard outing to see how they would fare. They did exceptionally well considering we got hammered with snow. But I definitely would have opted for the V8s had I correctly anticipated future weather conditions.

    We left the TH at about 9:00 pm and ended up encountering deeper snow than was anticipated. Also started heading up the mountain towards the Mint Hut a little sooner than we should have based on the whim of one of the members of our party. Turned out okay, but we ended up going much higher than we needed to and traversing some uncomfortable slopes. Finally found the buried hut at 5:00 am after one group member performed an impressive 5am 20ft cliff huck in the dark.

    There's a door down there somewhere...
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    Needless to say, we didn't get an early start the following day. I think we got out the door around 1pm to check out backdoor gap. Conditions were pretty white with some blowing wind, but the gap looked to have slid very recently and everything looked and felt quite good so we headed up and over to the Penny Royal Glacier.

    Up & Over
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    The final, windy bootpack...
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    Looking back down--not much to see.
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    Skied down the glacier and found the Bomber Hut just as daylight expired.

    Double-check the door before you turn in for the night. It takes a bit of elbow grease to get the latch to catch, and we woke up the next morning with an open door. According to the log book, the same thing had happened to the previous group that had been out there (you know who you are, Whiskey Bandits).
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    We left that next morning hoping we'd be able to make it to the Snowbird Hut, but the snow was coming down pretty heavy. Visibility started to drop rapidly after a few miles down into the valley, and we ended up having to tie a length of p-cord to the end of a ski pole and cast it ahead to make out where we were going.

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    As the snow continued to pile up we had to reconsider our route due to its final push up a steep headwall that also moonlights as a terrain trap. We decided to take a longer route into an adjacent valley that would eventually curve back around and drop us on the glacier above the Snowbird hut. For the next several hours the p-cord/ski pole fly-rod was your only link to sanity if you were breaking trail--when you saw the cord drop straight down to your right, you knew not to go right.
    As it turned out, the glacier at the top of the pass we were headed for no longer existed, so the terrain was super-confusing due to the map not representing current topography and the fact that we were starting to transition from blowing white-out to blowing dark-out. After a bit of deductive reasoning we decided on a route and forged ahead hoping that we were, in fact, headed up toward a pass and not just up the side of a mountain. It got a little sketch-balls when a section of wind-slab triggered after being thwapped with a ski pole, but it didn't propagate, and we were able to skirt around it and back up to what was indeed the top of the pass. From there the GPS got us around the lateral moraine and onto the glacier where it was smooth-sailing to the hut.

    Then things really got exciting...
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    Last edited by Tomahawk; 20 January 2014, 03:41 PM.

  • #2
    The next morning was beautiful.
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    All the new snow, along with a small release from the top of this chute made it obvious that caution was warranted on all slopes, but overall the snowpack we encountered on the way down was deep and stable.
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    Done...
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    About 23 miles all said and done.
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    Comment


    • #3
      Very impressive navigating and effort. Thanks for sharing.

      I gather the boots gave adequate support on the down, albeit less than ideal?

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      • #4
        The boots work really well on the down. Variable crust and windslab were a bitch in a couple of areas, and made it really hard to do anything, but I think that's unavoidable with gear this light. The boots handled those skis in the pow, deep pow, and crusty areas that had a uniform and consistent crust just fine. I definitely needed a steep grade whilst waist deep in new snow--that 55mm waist just didn't want to float. Most of my falling on the down occurred as a result of leg pussification and not the gear.

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        • #5
          Stellar report, a "winter" traverse AK style. Like the casting thing.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Tomahawk View Post
            The boots work really well on the down. Variable crust and windslab were a bitch in a couple of areas, and made it really hard to do anything, but I think that's unavoidable with gear this light. The boots handled those skis in the pow, deep pow, and crusty areas that had a uniform and consistent crust just fine. I definitely needed a steep grade whilst waist deep in new snow--that 55mm waist just didn't want to float. Most of my falling on the down occurred as a result of leg pussification and not the gear.
            Your legs get a pass since you were carrying a sizable pack.

            And did you torch that leaning tower of pyrotechnic hazard?

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            • #7
              Originally posted by dschane View Post
              And did you torch that leaning tower of pyrotechnic hazard?
              I may be a little slow on this one. I assume you're referring to Jenga? Which sparks in my brain a new Jenga-derived game in which the pieces are set afire and the game proceeds as usual.

              As for our game, it fell...

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              • #8
                I was just wondering how, after the journey you guys, a game of Jenga could fit the tag line, "then things really got exciting," unless it involved an exploding fireworks show.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by dschane View Post
                  I was just wondering how, after the journey you guys, a game of Jenga could fit the tag line, "then things really got exciting," unless it involved an exploding fireworks show.
                  Whiskey.
                  .

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                  • #10
                    Sounds like it was a ball buster of a trip, sometimes they are the most rewarding though. I like the p-cord trick, I could see where it could make the difference of moving ahead or staying put. Did you need to rope up on the glaciers?

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                    • #11
                      The glaciers we were on are pretty tame and static for the most part. The possibility of falling in a hole does exist, but can be mitigated greatly if you have a good idea of where the cracks are based on summer observation.

                      I have to give credit for the p-cord trick to Joe Stock. At least I think that's where it came from.

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